The Remedy

Courtesy longwood.edu

Courtesy longwood.edu

I read an article in a Worship Leader magazine today that really impacted me. It was a story about a woman in her late 60s who was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure after several months of shortness of breath, weakness, and feeling shaky. Her doctor explained to her the function of the heart: that the ventricles which are responsible for pumping blood throughout the body must also relax in order to be refilled after each pump. For her, disease had hardened her ventricles and her heart was no longer able to relax and receive the quantity of blood she needed to pump out. So fluid was getting backed up in her body and her life was in jeopardy even though her heart was technically pumping with strength. The magazine used her story to illustrate the need for rest and silence in our spiritual life, and it hit home with me.

I am a wife, mom of three, a student finishing my degree, and a very part-time producer. I have been proud of myself for my ability to juggle all of these balls and get it all done. I have started cooking more, and am breastfeeding my baby girl – both things I had longed to do. Tasks and projects keep getting added to my agenda and I am getting a good portion of them done (and doing a decent job at squashing the guilt from the things I just can’t get to).  It’s not pretty – but I’m working hard and accomplishing quite a bit more than I ever thought I could. So I should feel really accomplished. But I feel tired, out of breath, weak, and shaky. My eyes fill with tears at the strangest times.

I keep looking to my husband to help make me feel better. Maybe he can take me on more dates, or bring me flowers, or write me a sweet note. But he’s busy (his task-list each week rivals or surpasses mine), and I still need more. So I go to church, thinking that just one more worship service, a chance to raise my hands in praise, a sermon that will inspire and convict will get me back on track. But so often I leave church in tears. I still feel crummy. It was exhausting getting our kids up and getting them there, the baby was restless in service so I heard about a fourth of it, and it just didn’t do the trick.

Today when I read the article it hit me. I am a girl in congestive heart failure. I am pumping out as fast and furious as I can, but I’m not filling up. I can’t get a deep breath. I am shaky.

When you are diagnosed with CHF, the goal is to get the blood efficiently moving through the heart again. This means, if possible, reversing the damage to the ventricle so that it can relax and fill normally.  You need to get the blood pressure down, the heart rate stabilized, and the fluid balance of the body back to a healthy set point.

But for people like us, in spiritual congestive heart failure? What is the remedy?

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself…  Psalm 37:7

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. Exodus 14:14

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32:17

There are good reasons why Justin and I do all of the things we do. We think each one is necessary for our family’s survival and right now I can’t think of one thing that I can drop without serious consequences. But I think we need to look to Jesus as our example. There was nobody in history with a more vital purpose on earth. He literally came to seek and save that which was lost. His mission was to redeem humanity yet the Bible is clear He took time away to pray and sit in silence. He slept. He rested. He is never portrayed in Scripture as panicked or frantic. In fact, He was almost always infuriatingly calm.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:30 (When Jesus said this people were literally chasing after them – this wasn’t a down time or a break in the schedule.)

How can I think that the things on my list are so important that I don’t have time to rest when I have a Savior with tasks infinitely more important who modeled rest for me? And how have I forgotten the truth that Jesus is all I need so much that I am relying on my husband and church to fill me up when I feel empty? I’ve clearly lost my way here.

Somehow, I have to start receiving from the Lord the rest I need to do the important stuff in my life with health and not just efficiency. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. I’m not sure what things we need to extricate ourselves from. I’m not sure what balls I need to just let fall to the ground despite the consequences. But I’m planning to sit here for a bit in silence until the Lord reveals it. Because I feel like I can’t take a deep breath, and I know living in spiritual CHF is not God’s best for me, my husband, or my kids.

The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-25

The Life Free of Disappointment

Sometimes in our world there is news or a circumstance that breaks through the cloud of Christian clichés that give us an illusory sense of control over our life. Do you know what clichés I mean? We’ve all heard them. Someone puts their house up for sale, and it sells immediately, and someone posts “That’s God’s favor, right there!” Or the guy speaks up at community group about how every time they give to the Lord, money just appears out of nowhere.

And I always think, “That’s great, but that’s just not how it goes for us.” In fact, lately, as I look around, many of our friends are in this place with us of trusting God despite great disappointment and amidst the carnage of broken dreams.

  • What do we do when the miracle we hoped for, prayed for, and desperately needed, missed the deadline?
  • When the adoption we knew we were called to falls through, leaving us devastated with an empty nursery?
  • When we feel called to be a wife or a husband, but the years of waiting for a partner has made our hope weak?
  • When we find out that the parent who is the glue that holds our family together has a body racked with inoperable cancer?
  • When the money we needed to make the payment doesn’t show up?
  • When the path we know God told us to take leads us into a valley deeper than anything we’ve ever known?
  • When month after month after month our body betrays us and the baby that we hoped for isn’t there, and we feel broken and forgotten?

Where do we go when life is real and tough and the clichés and “what you give, you get” faith doesn’t pan out? This week I, along with the rest of the world, have watched Rick and Kay Warren face every parent’s nightmare scenario. We all know the fear that we will lose our child, and it is hard to even imagine that these righteous wonderful people are now facing the aftermath of the suicide of their youngest son after his lifelong struggle with depression. I am broken for them.

These earthly realities, and the Warrens’ pain, confronts us with the simple terrible truth that sometimes, in this world, the miracle we need doesn’t happen.

 

What do we do with that?

I think we have no choice, in these places of brokenness and desperation, but to force ourselves to look up to the Lord and look ahead to the next world. To say, with abandon, this place is not our home and the circumstances I see now are not the whole picture. To allow ourselves time and space sometimes to grieve. To cry out in justifiable anger and fear and disappointment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because, just as the Lord not only allowed but ordained his Son to die on a cross in this world, to achieve a greater good in the world to come, unimaginable sorrow and pain is sometimes allowed in our lives in this world to achieve a greater good in the world to come. And we don’t always get the luxury of understanding why.

The healing we hoped for comes in the next world, leaving only devastation in this one. The investments we are making are in the next world, leaving debt and insecurity in this world. The children we want to carry in our wombs and fill our homes in this world are sent instead to heaven, where we will someday hold them (and hopefully understand). The path we are on will sometimes take us into pain and loss in this world, to reap a harvest of joy and righteousness in the next world.

We do have hope for a future, because of Christ (and for that I am so grateful), but sometimes we need to release our desire to see that hope realized in this world. Because the simple fact is, sometimes it isn’t.

I think that is the hard lesson of the Warrens. They will see their son again. He will be whole, at peace. They will be reunited. But everyday until then, as they walk this earth, they walk it with the weight of grief. And may God help them, and us, to bear that weight well until they can say, with their Savior, “It is finished.”

And then the life free of disappointment will begin.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Until then, we “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) and we “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). And we stop with the ridiculous unhelpful Christian clichés that do nothing but add weight onto our brothers and sisters who are bearing burdens.

 

2012 Wrap-Up

2012 was a whirlwind (so much so that I’m writing my annual recap on the 19th). Here was our year, in 90 seconds or less:

  • Early in 2012 we celebrated the official end to our unemployment struggle as Justin received benefits and a full-time salary at a church we love. #Praise
  • Grace lost all her teeth and started Kindergarten and Bekah became the most hilarious outspoken three year-old ever. #Woah
  • Between the miscarriage and this little baby miracle girl, I was pregnant and terribly sick for more than seven months of 2012 (And yes, my husband deserves an award). #Mercy
  • I took 26 hours of school at three different colleges, became a senior, and actually made the Dean’s list. #Grateful
  • I had a great year with freelance, traveling internationally for work to both London and Paris and getting to work with people like President Clinton and Sir Richard Branson. #Awed
  • We rejoiced in new and old friends who blessed our world during the tough weeks of the miscarriage and who made us laugh during the rest of this crazy year. #Blessed
  • I wrote less blogs than past years, but because of the election blog and the almost 100,000 views it received, had my biggest blog year ever. #Crazy

It was a year of joy and heartbreak, as our family drew closer together and the outside world in some ways seemed to fall apart. I am grateful for it, but also grateful it is over. He has turned our mourning into dancing, and we look forward to our new little lady’s arrival in May, to the end of my undergraduate career, and to the surprises and blessings that the Lord has for us in 2013. Onward.

What it Feels Like for Me to be a Christian Woman in 2012

Disclaimer – this one is going to get deep, and not necessarily be pretty. And I am not on FB or Twitter right now to explain or clarify my positions, so I just pray that my heart would accurately come across as I write and process. I just want to be light in darkness, and I pray that nothing I say would cause shame or hurt. This is my perspective – and I am warning you it is messy.

I know I can be more sensitive than most, but to be a woman in this culture of rhetoric and soundbites is really difficult. Politicians and the media are hurtling words across the aisle without thought – words like “rape,” “pregnancy,” “abortion,” and “contraception” – like these are arrows slung from a bow and not real personal issues that carry with them memories, hurts, fears, and a visceral reaction.

I feel assaulted by it.

I am tired of signing onto Twitter and seeing snarky comments about rape and abortion. I am tired of rhetoric about pregnancy and abortion without a meaningful plan to help women and reduce these shocking statistics that mask a terrible reality. I am tired of pregnancy, infertility, and contraception being issues hurled about in the public sphere without a heart for what these things mean to the women and men making these decisions. I am tired of women’s rights and women’s equality being words without complex meaning in a world where women are battered, raped, maimed, enslaved, and reduced to being less than we are worldwide on an astonishing scale.

Don’t people understand these are REAL women and REAL babies they are talking about? That these decisions and topics are gut wrenching?

Our world is so broken, and we need Jesus so much.

I hate abortion. I’ve written about it before. I hated it even before Roe, when it was done in the dark of night, when women were maimed in back offices, sometimes not even given a choice because they were too young and they weren’t the ones paying so they were ignored. They endured it without anesthetic or a voice. What a cruel world that would steal from a woman even the choice to bear life, but it happens worldwide every single day. Abortion isn’t an American issue – it is a world issue. I hate the fear and stigma that backs women into a corner, the broken systems that entrap women. I hate that even decades later in some homes, a past secret abortion is not dealt with so peace can be found, the growing crack in the wall that reveals the facade behind the “happy healthy family.”

I hate it now that it is legal in the US and “more simple.”  I hate when it is convenient and it can be done without thought, except that it is not without thought and millions of women will tell you it haunts them decades later because there isn’t support for after. I hate it when it is done in deception, when a “simple” pill is given that makes the woman horribly ill for days, in pain bleeding alone in her home, unable to tell anyone. I hate when it is done after viability, when the baby could actually live outside of the womb and should, without question, have the rights of every other human. I don’t understand how we justify that. I hate when is agonized over – a terrible choice in the middle of a difficult life made in quiet and shame and fear of discovery. I hate that anyone has had to face that terrible choice and live with the results. I hate that it has stolen from so many of us, including me, family members. I see tiny newborn children and I hate that so many of them have vanished in violent ends, taking with them a part of our world’s future. I hate that it has left some women as shells, pieced back together and afraid of discovery, unable to forgive themselves. I hate that it places the burden on these women and takes the lives of these babies, and either gives men no choice or voice at all, or it enables boys to stay in suspended adolescence and not grow into men. It leaves nobody unscarred.

I hate it. It has stolen so much. It is not a simple right, it is an anchor. And it is taking us all down with it.

And I hate that it has become a political tagline. I think that grieves the heart of God as much as it hardens those of us who hear it over and over. I think since the beginning of time we have tried to find human solutions to the problem of sin we created in the garden (God didn’t want to give us kings, but we wanted kings, and when we got them they ruled over us without kindness. God didn’t want to give us divorce, but we insisted on divorce, and we left untold damage in our wake. We keep demanding the things that only damage us and distance us from Him, and then we blame Him when the mess we insisted on creating is messy). Even still, I wish there was a human solution, like legislation, that could erase the terrible reality of abortion, but the reality is that abortion is part of our broken world and has been since Adam and Eve made their choice. The numbers have increased since Roe vs. Wade, certainly, and the price has been immeasurably high on our culture and our values, but abortion has been a reality since humans have had the ability to fear and the desire to control each other and our future.

I think abortion is a consequence of fear. Fear of the future, fear of consequence, fear of discovery, fear of inadequacy. And you can’t insulate someone enough, provide them enough healthcare and options and support, to erase fear. Only perfect love drives out fear. A genuine love for women, a genuine love for children, a genuine love for God and trusting Him with our days – those things are the only answer to the abortion crisis and they will never grow from a political affiliation. We have to ALL quit numbing ourselves and start looking around, not judging each other but jumping in and getting our hands dirty – loving women and men in the messy realities of life. Loves drives out fear. So it means we support our children and nieces and friends when they are faced with terrifying decisions. It means we love and trust others enough to cry out for help when we find ourselves entangled in a nightmare scenario. It means we love selflessly, opening our hearts, homes and wallets to help each other and to meet needs. And it means we stop ignoring the orphan crisis – how can we ask women to choose life when more than 170 million children worldwide need homes? We need to love the orphan and the birth mother – no matter how messy that gets. If our prayers are answered and there are less abortions, that will mean there are more adoptions, and we need to be ready for that.

And let’s all agree to stop using abortion as a hurtling arrow.

And let’s add rape to that list. Rape is not rhetoric, and it can never be boiled down to a soundbite. Rape is complicated. Sometimes it is violent. Sometimes it is quiet and quick, devastating in its ambiguity. The moments leading up to it are confusing, the years after it are devastating. I know women who only, after feeling safe enough to do an honest assessment of the past, have realized that what they experienced was, in fact, rape. That their rights and their bodies were actually violated and that it is okay to call it that. I would bet that the statistics on rape are far lower than the reality of rape. No politician has a right to judge it on the degree of force or desire. It is intensely personal and can devastating.

Rape and abortion are the epitome of brokenness and to treat them casually destroys the thing about us that makes us human.

This world is broken. And more and more, I believe that the political rhetoric is contributing to the brokenness, not solving it. It makes us hard. It makes us mean. Anything can be taken out of context and spun and the heart of the person and the complexity of the matter completely annihilated.

Don’t believe me? Try this. Go outside and spend some time in prayer and check your blood pressure after that. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, talk to yourself and listen to your voice. Then watch your favorite political commentator for an hour – the guy you agree with. Then try the experiment again. Look in the mirror and talk, listen to your voice, check your blood pressure. Even when you agree with the person, I have found you will sound and look more defensive and angry, your adrenaline will probably be flowing, and your blood pressure will be higher. People who watch and listen to the rhetoric all day are growing more numb, more angry, and more hard by the hour. We need to step away from it. I’m convinced this stuff is toxic to our systems. It is the same human solutions to a divine sin problem we’ve been trying since Adam and Eve sewed together leaves to hide their nakedness.

We need Jesus. We need healing. We need restoration. We need forgiveness. We need miraculous protection from the darkness in this world – the sin that so easily entangles. We need to pray. Prayer can help with the abortion statistics and the rape statistics. It will open our eyes and soften our hearts. We will draw close to God and He will lead us in the way we should go in helping and assisting moms and adopting these kids who need homes. Only God can grow a boy into a man – giving him the strength to be honorable in this deceptive world that tells him he doesn’t have to live with honor. When that happens, rape and abortion numbers will go down. When heart-change and heart-softening happens, as we turn to Christ and light, this darkness must flee. We have to pray for that – that God will do it. He’s the only one who can.

Jesus this world is broken. It makes me shake. I look at my children and I ache for them – the statistics are scary and I pray they never experience these things, but I know they will at least be touched by them in this world. I see the women I know who have experienced infertility, unplanned or lost pregnancy, rape, and abortion and I ache for them. They all carry the scars – they all have lost so much. I know if this rhetoric stuns me it may devastate them. Or maybe it doesn’t – maybe that part of them is so walled off. Either way, Jesus, please draw near to the hurting and offer your healing mercy. Help us please. Government is not our answer – YOU are our answer. Human solutions stink – they only make things worse. We need you. We have done it our way and we have screwed it up. Please call your church to be salt and light in a broken world. Thank you for the people who get this – for the men and women who stand on your Word as a light to the world – being light as they embrace the complexity of loving a broken world. This is not simple, and we need people brave enough to admit that. Thank you for pregnancy centers filled with volunteers and staff who actually love women and desire to help them. Thank you for people who are unafraid to jump in and do the heavy lifting. I know even as much as Planned Parenthood is reviled on one side of this debate, there are many people there who deeply desire to help women. Please lead all of those people to yourself  – you are our only hope. Help our country. Help our leaders. Convict them. Convict us to pray for them and not be cynical and hateful toward them. I need help with that – I can feel so hopeless about the weakness of our country’s leadership. Help us to turn off the rhetoric, turn on our ears to hear Your Spirit, turn from our evil ways, and turn from our dependence on human solutions. And Jesus, please, please, heal our land.

He Makes All Things New

This is a new season in the Wells home. Grace starts Kindergarten tomorrow, oddly enough on the same day I start full-time college. Today I’ve had school supplies strewn out in my living room, one pile colorful and fun, one slightly more serious. We’re both excited and giddy at the new adventure God is beginning in us.

He makes all things new. 

The beginning of fall is in the air, and change comes with it. I have one friend who is starting a new job as a teacher, another is soon to return to work after the birth of her new little boy, another waits to hear word that she can travel to go get her new daughter from the country of her birth, and another is adjusting to a new normal after her world collapsed into what seemed like an unholy mess, but for God. Today in church I got to sit next to a new friend, and I pray the Lord will bring her back to join with our little messy body of Believers.

He makes all things new.

New hopes rise, sometimes in the shadow of hopes lost. That is certainly my experience this Fall. In my head, the countdown to what would have been my due date is still ticking away. I thought it would have stopped by now, but I am still learning to grieve and trust even when the grieving takes longer than I wanted it to take. In some ways, although this fall brings great blessings, it still feels like there is a hole where the new baby was “supposed” to fit into the picture. And I’ve had to come to peace with that void and with that feeling of incompleteness. Our little family in my head and heart is five, even though it stubbornly remains at four. And I’ve had to wrestle with that over and over this year. In the quiet, after the wrestling, I remember that God is still good, is for us, and is still doing new things in our hearts and minds even if the new thing we were expecting isn’t going to happen.

He makes all things new.

I’m so grateful for that truth. He even makes new our hopes and dreams, and our visions for the future. My heart that felt weary and full of doubt as I cried out my fears and questions to people who loved me just as recently as last week – that heart today feels hopeful. And that is a miracle of our God. He brings fall every year, with the death of some things and the change of others, and in all the change, He remains loving toward us, accepting of us, pouring on us His mercy. He shows us that death is never the end, because of the cross, and we never have reason to lose hope.

He makes all things new. I pray that truth is real to you this Fall, despite your circumstances.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17

I’ve Realized Something…

I don’t do well with sadness.

I had a brilliant therapist once who told me that self-awareness is a choice, and few choose it. I thought I was pretty self-aware, but this grieving thing has shown me that I am not.

At all.

We adopted a dog on Saturday. For most of you – that’s not a big piece of news. But for people who know me well, they just went “WHAT?!?” and laughed out loud. I am not a pet person. I am a bubble-girl to a highly-unusual degree and literally I can’t sit in grass or touch animals because I swell up. And I am really sensitive to smells. So the combination of these two things makes pet ownership difficult.

And yet, suddenly, last week, all of my previous arguments against getting a dog melted away and I found myself on adoptapet.org searching out the perfect dog for our family. It was like I unlearned everything that 36 years had taught me and suddenly I NEEDED A DOG. I found one, emailed about it, and we went and adopted it.

Really.

Henry Wells

We brought him home, changed his name from Snuggles (a boy named Snuggles? No.) to Henry. Henry is adorable. He looks like my parents’ dog, which is the only dog I’ve ever really gotten close to. It seemed perfect. But soon after getting him home, Henry began to be very dog-like. In fact, he was very puppy-like. Peeing on my carpet and rugs, jumping on all of us, whining and crying all night long – he was the trifecta, a perfect embodiment of every argument I’ve ever given myself and others against a pet.

And I started crying (another thing I don’t do that often). And I didn’t just shed a tear – I sobbed. Poor Justin has a dripping, heaving, impossible-to-understand woman on his hands, and he has no idea what is happening.

I was crying because it hit me. I didn’t really want a dog. I was sad, and I was hurting, so I did something drastic that just happened to look like a cute little dog named Henry. I wanted to take things into my own hands – unstick what was stuck. And looking back I realized this pattern. In times of past sadness, I’ve done some pretty radical things. I’ve cut my hair or sold my car or taken up painting, or countless other rebellions that weren’t as visible but were my own little war against the way things were. This time I got a dog. And it didn’t take a therapist to see what I was really doing. I was sad about the baby, and since I couldn’t change that and I couldn’t give my girls the sibling I wanted to give them in the timeframe I wanted, I gave them a dog. It was obvious, except to me.

I was crying because my solution didn’t stop the sadness. My house smelled, chaos reigned, I had a DOG, and I was still hurting.

So carefully and a little fearfully, I leaned into the sadness. I trusted the Lord with my grief. I allowed myself to cry. I revisited everything that happened a month ago that I have been trying not to dwell on. I re-read the verses that sustained me during that terrible time. I grieved. It was cathartic and probably very healthy for me.

As I cried, I cleaned up my house and tried to turn myself into a dog person. Because Henry is cute and the girls love him, and the Lord already used him to allow me to grieve a little. So maybe we can make this work.

I don’t do well with sadness, but I want to. I want to accept with open hands what the Lord gives and allows, even if it isn’t my plan in my timing. I want to trust Him more, and myself less. And I know I need the Lord to help me do all of these things, because they are completely contrary to my instincts and nature.

Lord I don’t want to run after my own impatient solutions to the challenges you have allowed in our life. I want to learn to wait. I want to grow from the lessons You give, to trust You with the timeline, to trust myself with the sadness. I want to feel. I want to be honest. Help me Lord. Forgive me when I fall short. Bring Your blessings in Your time for Your glory. I trust you with how our family will grow. 

Yea Though I Walk Through The Valley…

The Lord is my shepherd; 
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley…

This week I had a miscarriage. I realize many of you family and friends didn’t even know we were pregnant, and I am so sorry. We had just gotten to the point where we were excited to start telling people about the baby when I started having complications and everything became very uncertain. At first it seemed like the baby was strong despite the difficulties, but ten days later, the pregnancy was over.

I am tired, and aching, but grateful. Grateful for a husband who holds me, even as I am coming to peace with things hard to understand. Grateful for my girls dancing around me oblivious and so priceless. Grateful for a sister who held my hand in my darkest moments in that doctor’s office and a mom who took us in like she always does to carry our burdens and meet every need. For a dad who prayed and held me tight, and friends and family who called and texted and brought flowers and meals and prayed countless prayers that broke light into our darkness. They carried me through this experience. I’m grateful for practical mercies too – insurance literally days before we needed it, and a Christian professor and a Christian boss who allowed me to disappear from my life while I walked through this valley, no questions asked.

As this unfolded, I was astonished by what I didn’t know about miscarriage, and what I wish I had known. Not to make this experience easier, because frankly I don’t think there is a way to make it easier, but so I could have had empathy for my friends who have gone before me in this, and also maybe I could have anticipated this past week better. Because in general people don’t talk about it, except in very clinical, sterile words that aren’t accurate, but I wonder if maybe we should.

I just didn’t know. I didn’t know that a miscarriage sometimes takes days; days of fear and blood and pain and exhaustion and prayers and confusion and labor. I didn’t know the vulnerability and fear that came with simple acts such as standing up or going to the bathroom. I didn’t know that doctors and hospitals really don’t have answers when you are facing something like this. I didn’t know that hope and despair battle in your mind as you pray for mercy and a miracle. I didn’t know how hard it is to tell people what is happening because it is private and messy and terrible; plus most people didn’t even know you were pregnant, much less that the pregnancy is in jeopardy. I didn’t know about the feeling that your body is betraying your baby, the what-ifs and guilt  (that you must fight through because there is nothing you could have done to affect this outcome). I didn’t know about the moments begging God to make it stop, and then the moments where you have to reconcile yourself to the idea that it isn’t stopping, and that God is still good. I didn’t know how it drags on and on, as your house gets messy and your laundry piles up and kids need to be held and hugged and fed and taken to school and picked up and bathed and put to bed, but you can’t do any of it. So you rely totally on all of the precious people around you, and they do it all, balancing your life and their own, and you feel so guilty, but you also know that every time you stand up it gets worse, so you lay there, and they all work hard and carry your burdens.

I didn’t know, and I am sorry. I am sorry for people who went before us, I am sorry for anyone going through this now. This was so much harder than I thought it would be. I’m sorry if I ever judged your pain, or your reaction to pain. I’m sorry I didn’t help more or understand. I’m sorry for the little life that never grew up and for the moments you didn’t get to have and the loss of your sweet little baby.

I’m sorry that any of us ever had to go through this.

And the sad part is, this happens so often and many, many people I love have experienced this hurt, and many others will certainly walk through this valley. So let me tell you about what I learned about the goodness of God in this, because there was much I didn’t know there as well. I didn’t know about the way he prepares your heart for news you don’t see coming, or about the fog that surrounds your mind as you work through each step in this process, or about the peace that truly is beyond understanding even as you are facing things you never imagined. There are small mercies that help make this bearable. He allowed this to proceed slowly because he knows I am a person who needs time and he gave peace when I needed it at each step. He also brought people beside me who grieved this with us – family and friends who carried the burden of grief and cried with us and for us. I needed that so badly and for those of you who carried that, thank you. Looking back at this entire thing, from day one, I can see his hand of mercy. I returned to school today and my professor stopped me and told me that I looked good and that she was so thankful I was smiling, because she could tell that the Lord was with me. And I feel that. I can tell you that he never left me alone, not for a moment.

Now I am at the point where I am struggling to wrap my human, planning, finite little mind around this tiny life that was lost, and the idea that a child that is part me and part Justin is in heaven, who would have been my girls’ sibling, my siblings’ niece or nephew, and our parents’ grandchild. I’ll be honest and tell you that doesn’t feel real yet. But even in that – the Lord has spoken.

He spoke through Angie Smith’s amazing book What Women Fear, when she wrote these words, “I am still standing, and I still believe.”

I am still standing, and I still believe. I believe that God is good. I believe our child is safe in the arms of the Lord. I believe that death didn’t win.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

I know this post was personal and heavy, but I had to write about it. I write about it because I need to process the lessons of this valley. I write about it because I cannot imagine writing about anything else until I have written about this and explained how I was changed by it. I write because I wish I had something like this to read when I was in the middle of this searching for answers on the internet. And I write because I always share what I learn from my children, and this child is no different. I’m grateful for the lessons this little baby taught me, lessons of empathy for other moms and cherishing my girls and the mercy of God during dark frightening days. I write, and I heal, and we move on toward heaven ourselves and toward Jesus who does understand all of this.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.  (Psalm 23)